Tracking resistance vver time: A follow-up study with adolescent girls in an all-girl middle school



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This interview study with 10 8th grade girls is a follow up to research conducted when the girls were entering the 6th grade, having been accepted at that time as the first students to attend a new all-girl college preparatory middle school. The follow up focuses on an aspect of the original study that was unanticipated and interesting—girls’ reports of negative peer reactions to their school choice, and in turn, the girls’ resistant responses to peer criticisms. Given the importance of the concept of resistance in adolescent research, the purpose of this study was to revisit the girls’ experiences with peer reactions to their school choice and their responses to these reactions after having attended the school for two years.
The study is based in a dialogical perspective, more specifically, in Saukko’s (2003) concept of contingent resistances. From this approach, resistance is studied as a dialogical meaning creation process involving the analysis of I-Other positioning with other people (parents, teachers, peers) and with ideas (e.g., the importance of a college education). Rather than assessing resistance in the abstract, the focus is on the way resistance is voiced in particular contexts. The approach also emphasizes a close analysis of what is being resisted from the actors’ perspectives, and the similarities and differences among actors in how resistance is expressed.
The majority of girls continued to report negative reactions from peers regarding their school, many of which now focused on sexual orientation stereotyping. The girls voiced their resistance to this peer commentary in more elaborated ways than in the first interview, and there were several differences in what they were reacting to and in the forms of their resistant expressions. Support for their resistance to peer criticism also changed over time. In the initial interviews, support came from feelings of specialness associated with being selected for the new school; in the follow up, feelings of specialness had dissipated, but in its place was a sense of belongingness and identity with the school. It is concluded that an adequate understanding of resistance requires perspectives and associated methods that capture the specificity and complexity of meanings that vary within and between individuals within a given context and over time.



Young adolescence, Identity, Resistance, Narratives, Contingent resistances, All-girls school, Middle school